Pastoral Letters

Pastoral Message October 18, 2020

Apostle and Evangelist Luke of the Seventy

Saint Luke is commemorated on October 18.

St. Luke the Evangelist

The Holy Apostle and Evangelist Luke, was a native of Syrian Antioch, a companion of the holy Apostle Paul (Phil.1:24, 2 Tim. 4:10-11), and a physician enlightened in the Greek medical arts. Hearing about Christ, Luke arrived in Palestine and fervently accepted the preaching of salvation from the Lord Himself.

As one of the Seventy Apostles, Saint Luke was sent by the Lord with the others to preach the Kingdom of Heaven during the Savior’s earthly life (Luke 10:1-3). After the Resurrection, the Lord Jesus Christ appeared to Saints Luke and Cleopas on the road to Emmaus.

Luke accompanied Saint Paul on his second missionary journey, and from that time they were inseparable. When Paul’s coworkers had forsaken him, only Luke remained to assist him in his ministry (2 Tim. 4:10-11). After the martyric death of the First-Ranked Apostles Peter and Paul, Saint Luke left Rome to preach in Achaia, Libya, Egypt and the Thebaid. He ended his life by suffering martyrdom in the city of Thebes.

Tradition credits Saint Luke with painting the first icons of the Mother of God. “Let the grace of Him Who was born of Me and My mercy be with these Icons,” said the All-Pure Virgin after seeing the icons. Saint Luke also painted icons of the First-Ranked Apostles Peter and Paul. Saint Luke’s Gospel was written in the years 62-63 at Rome, under the guidance of the Apostle Paul. In the preliminary verses (1:1-3), Saint Luke precisely sets forth the purpose of his work. He proposes to record, in chronological order, everything known by Christians about Jesus Christ and His teachings.

By doing this, he provided a firmer historical basis for Christian teaching (1:4). He carefully investigated the facts, and made generous use of the oral tradition of the Church and of what the All-Pure Virgin Mary Herself had told him (2:19, 51).

In Saint Luke’s Gospel, the message of the salvation made possible by the Lord Jesus Christ, and the preaching of the Gospel, are of primary importance.

Saint Luke also wrote the Acts of the Holy Apostles at Rome around 62-63 A.D. The Book of Acts, which is a continuation of the four Gospels, speaks about the works and the fruits of the holy Apostles after the Ascension of the Savior. At the center of the narrative is the Council of the holy Apostles at Jerusalem in the year 51, a Church event of great significance, which resulted in the separation of Christianity from Judaism and its independent dissemination into the world (Acts 15:6-29). The theological focus of the Book of Acts is the coming of the Holy Spirit, Who will guide the Church “into all truth” (John 16:13) until the Second Coming of Christ.

The holy relics of Saint Luke were taken from Constantinople and brought to Padua, Italy at some point in history. Perhaps this was during the infamous Crusade of 1204. In 1992, Metropolitan Hieronymus (Jerome) of Thebes requested the Roman Catholic bishop in Thebes to obtain a portion of Saint Luke’s relics for the saint’s empty sepulchre in the Orthodox cathedral in Thebes.

The Roman Catholic bishop Antonio Mattiazzo of Padua, noting that Orthodox pilgrims came to Padua to venerate the relics while many Catholics did not even know that the relics were there, appointed a committee to investigate the relics in Padua, and the skull of Saint Luke in the Catholic Cathedral of Saint Vico in Prague.

The skeleton was determined to be that of an elderly man of strong build. In 2001, a tooth found in the coffin was judged to be consistent with the DNA of Syrians living near the area of Antioch dating from 72-416 A.D. The skull in Prague perfectly fit the neck bone of the skelton. The tooth found in the coffin in Padua was also found to fit the jawbone of the skull.

Bishop Mattiazzo sent a rib from the relics to Metropolitan Hieronymus to be venerated in Saint Luke’s original tomb in the Orthodox cathedral at Thebes.

Pastoral Letters

Pastoral Message October 4, 2020

Wherever there are spiritual melodies, there does the grace of the Spirit come, sanctifying the mouth and soul.

 St. Nicodemus of the Holy Mountain

Dear Brothers and Sisters in Christ,

This Sunday is dedicated as National Church Music Sunday. This observance of our chanters and  choir members falls on the Sunday following the Feast of St. Romanos the Melodist on October first.

Saint Romanos the Melodist was born in the fifth century in the Syrian city of Emesa of Jewish parents. After moving to Constantinople, he became a church sacristan in the temple of Hagia Sophia. The monk spent his nights alone at prayer in a field or in the Blachernae church beyond the city.

Saint Romanos was not a talented reader or singer. Once, on the eve of the Nativity of Christ, he read the Kathisma verses. He read so poorly that another reader had to take his place. The clergy ridiculed Romanos, which devastated him.

On the day of the Nativity, the Mother of God appeared to the grief-stricken youth in a vision while he was praying before her Kyriotissa icon. She gave him a scroll and commanded him to eat it. Thus was he given the gift of understanding, composition, and hymnography.

That evening at the all-night Vigil Saint Romanos sang, in a wondrous voice, his first Kontakion: “Today the Virgin gives birth to the Transcendent One…” All the hymns of Saint Romanus became known as kontakia, in reference to the Virgin’s scroll. Saint Romanus was also the first to write in the form of the Oikos, which he incorporated into the all-night Vigil at his places of residence (In Greek, “oikos”).

For his zealous service Saint Romanos was ordained as a deacon and became a teacher of song. Until his death, which occurred about the year 556, the Hierodeacon Romanos the Melodist composed nearly a thousand hymns, many of which are still used by Christians to glorify the Lord. About eighty survive.

This Sunday we will pray for and acknowledge the dedicated people who sing praises to God at our St. Anna Church. We honor those who chant the services today. And we support and pray for the members of our choir who patiently await the day we are permitted to utilize the choir in the church once again. To all of you, I offer my sincere thanks and the blessings of God.

With Much Love in Christ,

Fr. Anthony Savas

Pastoral Letters

Pastoral Message September 27, 2020

“I wish it need not have happened in my time,” said Frodo. “So do I,” said Gandalf, “and so do all who live to see such times. But that is not for them to decide. All we have to decide is what to do with the time that is given us.”

J.R.R. Tolkien, The Fellowship of the Ring

Dear Brothers and Sisters in Christ,

Indeed, we can all relate to the words of our hobbit friend. The past several months have been burdensome and difficult. They have brought out the best in us, and regrettably, perhaps the worst in us as well, at least fleetingly. But no matter, the good Lord has directed our steps, inspired us to find solutions to problems and strengthened us to endure tribulation, illness, financial stress and uncertainty.

I’ve missed seeing you all at the level of which we are accustomed. And I look forward to the day things are normalized, and we can emerge victoriously and peacefully from the rubble of a down-trodden pandemic.

But actually I write this message with hope, anticipation and good will. For sure, our day to day lives are still governed in many ways by coronavirus. But you know what? At church, we have made many strides in pushing forward.

Our Young Adults came together just last week and enjoyed the first (and I mean very first) social gathering on the lovely grounds of our church, since we purchased the property and moved in.

Sunday School will begin soon. This Sunday, our parents will meet after the Divine Liturgy to have the program unveiled and learn about the new and exciting direction we have taken during our continuing restrictions and circumstances. But again, I repeat – Sunday School is starting! This is nothing but a positive move and I pray our children and their families participate with enthusiasm and support. It will be worth it.

Our children and Sunday School families are not the only parishioners who will enjoy a revived religious education program. In mid-October, our Orthodox Inquirer’s Class and Bible Studies will also resume.

Both the Bible Study and Orthodoxy classes will be taught in-person and using Zoom. So please, I invite you all to participate in one or both learning opportunities.

Wednesday Evening Bible Study will explore a part of the Bible that is new to our class – The Old Testament. I look forward to sharing with you the works of the greatest apocryphal writers of the OT in Daniel, Jeremiah and Ezekiel.  Primarily, we will be studying the Book of Daniel, but that would be nearly impossible without referencing the other two. Please join us! More detailed information will follow.

I will be sending Zoom links to my Summer Bible Study list, so need to contact me if you were participating. But if you wish to join us via Zoom, please email me and I’ll add you to the list. In order to protect the Zoom experience, I will only send invites to people I actually know.

As for the Inquirer’s Class, we will be moving weekly Paraklesis Services to 6:30 pm and conducting the class from 7:30 to 9:00 pm on Thursday evenings. Who among us has learned all there is to know about our precious Orthodox Faith. None of us. So since it will be easy to Zoom in, please consider this lovely refresher course.

And as I always mention, please share this class with any of your friends, family, co-workers or neighbors who can benefit from the salvific message of the Gospel, the Church and our Lord Jesus Christ. Please, take the time to pray about who in your life would be inspired to learn of our Faith.

St. Anna Men’s and Women’s Ministries have been actively serving our parish, parishioners and the greater community throughout the pandemic and will continue to make a positive impact on those within and outside our direct purview.

Our GOYA calendar is finally beginning to take shape, and more active youth ministries are also directly around the bend.

So I’m putting it out there once again – there is allot going on and we are beginning to look and feel like a Greek Orthodox parish once again. Thank God!!!

Are you ready to get involved once again? Are you ready to return to worship. Remember, we safely have room for 100 people now. Are you ready to participate regularly in the active life of your St. Anna parish? At this time, the table is set for worship and ministry, as much as we can anyway. There is more and more going on, and my every intention is to serve your spiritual needs while glorifying and giving thanks to our Creator.

Yes it’s true. Things still look and feel differently. But honestly, not quite as much as before. Come for Liturgy. Grow with Sunday School. Become enriched with a class.

This is your parish. It’s here for you. As long as we continue to congregate with proper social distancing and other safety measures, we are confident that we will continue to build upon our vibrant parish life.

We wish these things had not happened in our time. We did not ask for these things. All we can do is make the best of our situation. God forbid I paraphrase Tolkien, but that’s pretty much the gist.

With Much Love in XC,

Fr. Anthony Savas

Pastoral Letters

Pastoral Message September 20, 2020

Dear Brothers and Sisters in Christ,

I trust and pray you are all well.

Last week, I publicly unveiled our plan for Sunday School, set to begin next month. I must say, that our Sunday School teachers and administration have worked very hard to create (from scratch) our best offering during a time of great challenge. Some families want to return to live Sunday School. Some are not ready. Some teachers feel comfortable teaching live classes. Some do not. Governments, school boards, universities, professional sports leagues, corporations, movie studios, small business, households  and yes, even churches, have done their level best these past seven months to negotiate through the realities of a new normal.

St. Anna’s is no different. Nobody gave us a road map or a manual on how best to operate, minister or provide services for our people. In February, our community was full of excitement and the anticipation of being in our own church building. Five short weeks later, we were locked out of our own space and forced to worship via the internet. Months later, our church re-opened again. We did our best to accommodate our new realities, circumstances and limitations.

In re-opening, we followed the directives of our State, Metropolis, Archdiocese, and the best advice from our own Medical Advisory Ministry Team (MAMT)- a group of St. Anna medical professionals with differing experiences, political affiliations and scientific backgrounds – but ALL united in the Body of Christ and wanting to create the safest environment possible. Why would I mention politics? Because there are some, perhaps more than a few, who believe that our policies were politically motivated, not governed by data, obedience to religious authority, respect for civil authority, and good, common sense.

This brings me to our decision to begin on-line registration for Sunday church attendance. Although this has been a common practice throughout the nation once our churches reopened, this is admittedly something unique to our area. To my knowledge, here are no other Orthodox parishes in Utah that are resorting to this.

I owe you, the parishioners of St. Anna’s an apology for rolling out such a practice without a proper explanation. This lack of communication on my part has left a slight  vacuum filled with assumptions, misinformation and yes, even people’s unwarranted political suspicions. So please let me make something perfectly clear:

While it is true that due to coronavirus, participation in live worship has been reduced, it is equally true that Sunday participation is still active. On more than one occasion, we exceeded more than 70% of our total capacity to accommodate live, social distanced participation. In other words, people have thankfully continued to come to church. And with space nearly filling up, even before Sunday School begins, we felt it necessary to follow the lead of multiple Orthodox communities and offer on-line registration. This way, we would know if and when we reached capacity, BEFORE turning people away because the church filled up. Would you like to be the person who got up, dressed up, and came to church, only to be turned away? I thought not.  Again, I am sorry for not properly explaining the necessity for such action.

I am also grateful for our church leaders who continue to seek solutions, find the best ways to serve our parishioners and bring glory to our loving and merciful Lord. Your parish council and I are still searching for the proper balance of safety, ministry, and active participation.

When you come to church this Sunday, and I pray you do, you will notice that an additional 43 chairs have been added to the seating capacity of our sanctuary. I won’t explain how, you can see that for yourself. Our parish council, together with the best advice of the MAMT will determine if these additional seats will allow us to forego, at least for now, the necessity of preregistration for church attendance. Maybe we found our answer to our immediate challenge. Maybe we did not. But at least, as always, we will continue to think and pray ourselves out of a challenge. We will make our decisions based on love and the best way to serve the people of God. There are no other influences which determine our courses of action. If it’s determined that the best way to accommodate an increase in Sunday participation is to have you sign-up on line, I will trust that you know it is done out of blessed necessity.

This community was formed, not too long ago, based on faith, vision, authentic unity and the desire to break influences of negativity. Please join me in prayer, that the beginning of our Sunday School will be successful, that our families, and all families remain safe, and that our Lord Jesus Christ will be the center of every motivation in each of our hearts. I remain,

With Love in Christ,

Fr. Anthony Savas

Pastoral Letters

Pastoral Message September 13, 2020

Dear Brothers and Sisters in Christ,

Please pay prayerful attention to the following description of Monday’s Great Feast of the Universal Exaltation of the Holy Cross by the Orthodox Church in America. We WILL offer live services on this Feast. Orthros will begin at 8:00 am followed by the Divine Liturgy and Procession of the Cross at 9:00 am.

The Elevation of the Venerable and Life-Creating Cross of the Lord: The pagan Roman emperors tried to completely eradicate from human memory the holy places where our Lord Jesus Christ suffered and was resurrected for mankind. The Emperor Hadrian (117-138) gave orders to cover over the ground of Golgotha and the Sepulchre of the Lord, and to build a temple of the pagan goddess Venus and a statue of Jupiter.

Pagans gathered at this place and offered sacrifice to idols there. Eventually after 300 years, by Divine Providence, the great Christian sacred remains, the Sepulchre of the Lord and the Life-Creating Cross were again discovered and opened for veneration. This took place under the Emperor Constantine the Great (306-337) after his victory in the year 312 over Maxentius, ruler of the Western part of the Roman empire, and over Licinius, ruler of its Eastern part. In the year 323 Constantine became the sole ruler of the vast Roman Empire.

In 313 he had issued the Edict of Milan, by which the Christian religion was legalized and the persecutions against Christians in the Western half of the empire were stopped. The ruler Licinius, although he had signed the Edict of Milan to oblige Constantine, still fanatically continued the persecutions against Christians. Only after his conclusive defeat did the 313 Edict of Milan extend also to the Eastern part of the empire. The Holy Equal of the Apostles Emperor Constantine, having gained victory over his enemies in three wars with God’s assistance, had seen in the heavens the Sign of the Cross, and written beneath: “By this you shall conquer.”

Ardently desiring to find the Cross on which our Lord Jesus Christ was crucified, Saint Constantine sent his mother, the pious Empress Helen (May 21), to Jerusalem, providing her with a letter to Saint Macarius, Patriarch of Jerusalem.

Although the holy empress Helen was already in her declining years, she set about completing the task with enthusiasm. The empress gave orders to destroy the pagan temple and the statues in Jerusalem. Searching for the Life-Creating Cross, she made inquiry of Christians and Jews, but for a long time her search remained unsuccessful.

Finally, they directed her to a certain elderly Hebrew by the name of Jude who stated that the Cross was buried where the temple of Venus stood. They demolished the pagan temple and, after praying, they began to excavate the ground. Soon the Tomb of the Lord was uncovered. Not far from it were three crosses, a board with the inscription ordered by Pilate, and four nails which had pierced the Lord’s Body (March 6).

In order to discern on which of the three crosses the Savior was crucified, Patriarch Macarius alternately touched the crosses to a corpse. When the Cross of the Lord touched the dead one, he came to life. Having beheld the raising of the dead man, everyone was convinced that the Life-Creating Cross was found.

Christians came in a huge throng to venerate the Holy Cross, beseeching Saint Macarius to elevate the Cross, so that even those far off might reverently contemplate it. Then the Patriarch and other spiritual leaders raised up the Holy Cross, and the people, saying “Lord have mercy,” reverently prostrated before the Venerable Wood. This solemn event occurred in the year 326.

During the discovery of the Life-Creating Cross another miracle took place: a grievously sick woman, beneath the shadow of the Holy Cross, was healed instantly. The elder Jude and other Jews there believed in Christ and accepted Holy Baptism. Jude received the name Cyriacus and afterwards was consecrated Bishop of Jerusalem. During the reign of Julian the Apostate (361-363) he accepted a martyr’s death for Christ (see October 28).

The holy empress Helen journeyed to the holy places connected with the earthly life of the Savior, building more than 80 churches, at Bethlehem the birthplace of Christ, and on the Mount of Olives where the Lord ascended to Heaven, and at Gethsemane where the Savior prayed before His sufferings and where the Mother of God was buried after her death.

Saint Helen took part of the Life-Creating Wood and nails with her to Constantinople. The holy emperor Constantine gave orders to build at Jerusalem a majestic and spacious church in honor of the

Resurrection of Christ, also including under its roof the Life-Giving Tomb of the Lord and Golgotha. The temple was constructed in about ten years. Saint Helen did not survive until the dedication of the temple, she died in the year 327. The church was consecrated on September 13, 335. On the following day, September 14, the festal celebration of the Exaltation of the Venerable and Life-Creating Cross was established.

Another event connected to the Cross of the Lord is remembered also on this day: its return to Jerusalem from Persia after a fourteen year captivity. During the reign of the Byzantine emperor Phocas (602-610) the Persian emperor Khozroes II in a war against the Greeks defeated the Greek army, plundered Jerusalem and captured both the Life-Creating Cross of the Lord and the Holy Patriarch Zachariah (609-633).

The Cross remained in Persia for fourteen years and only under the emperor Heraclius (610-641), who with the help of God defeated Khozroes and concluded peace with his successor and son Syroes, was the Cross of the Lord returned to the Christians.

With great solemnity the Life-creating Cross was transferred to Jerusalem. Emperor Heraclius in imperial crown and royal purple carried the Cross of Christ into the temple of the Resurrection. With the emperor went Patriarch Zacharios. At the gates by which they ascended Golgotha, the emperor suddenly stopped and was not able to proceed farther. The holy Patriarch explained to the emperor that an angel of the Lord was blocking his way. The emperor was told to remove his royal trappings and to walk barefoot, since He Who bore the Cross for the salvation of the world from sin had made His way to Golgotha in all humility. Then Heraclius donned plain garb, and without further hindrance, carried the Cross of Christ into the church.

In a sermon on the Exaltation of the Cross, Saint Andrew of Crete (July 4) says: “The Cross is exalted, and everything true gathers together, the Cross is exalted, and the city makes solemn, and the people celebrate the feast”.

Much Love in XC,

Fr. Anthony Savas

Pastoral Letters

Pastoral Message August 30, 2020

Dear Brothers and Sisters in Christ,

Today, August 29th marks one of the most sad and unjust days in the life of the Church. Perhaps their is no other account of martyrdom as senseless as that of the Baptizer. His life was stricken from this earth, not from the impetuousness of religious zeal, or from one’s theological dispute, but rather from the even darker places of human anger, spite, vengeance, revenge and blood-thirsty power. Please keep today in quiet contemplation and prayerful attention. Please also take the time to read the following account of today’s commemoration from the Orthodox Church in America.

The Beheading of the Prophet, Forerunner of the Lord, John the Baptist: The Evangelists Matthew (Mt.14:1-12) and Mark (Mark 6:14-29) provide accounts about the martyric end of John the Baptist in the year 32 after the Birth of Christ.

Following the Baptism of the Lord, Saint John the Baptist was locked up in prison by Herod Antipas, the Tetrarch (ruler of one fourth of the Holy Land) and governor of Galilee. (After the death of king Herod the Great, the Romans divided the territory of Palestine into four parts, and put a governor in charge of each part. Herod Antipas received Galilee from the emperor Augustus).

The prophet of God John openly denounced Herod for having left his lawful wife, the daughter of the Arabian king Aretas, and then instead cohabiting with Herodias, the wife of his brother Philip (Luke 3:19-20). On his birthday, Herod made a feast for dignitaries, the elders and a thousand chief citizens. Salome, the daughter of Herod, danced before the guests and charmed Herod. In gratitude to the girl, he swore to give her whatever she would ask, up to half his kingdom.

The vile girl on the advice of her wicked mother Herodias asked that she be given the head of John the Baptist on a platter. Herod became apprehensive, for he feared the wrath of God for the murder of a prophet, whom earlier he had heeded. He also feared the people, who loved the holy Forerunner. But because of the guests and his careless oath, he gave orders to cut off the head of Saint John and to give it to Salome.

According to Tradition, the mouth of the dead preacher of repentance once more opened and proclaimed: “Herod, you should not have the wife of your brother Philip.” Salome took the platter with the head of Saint John and gave it to her mother. The frenzied Herodias repeatedly stabbed the tongue of the prophet with a needle and buried his holy head in a unclean place. But the pious Joanna, wife of Herod’s steward Chuza, buried the head of John the Baptist in an earthen vessel on the Mount of Olives, where Herod had a parcel of land. (The Uncovering of the Venerable Head is celebrated February 24). The holy body of John the Baptist was taken that night by his disciples and buried at Sebastia, there where the wicked deed had been done.

After the murder of Saint John the Baptist, Herod continued to govern for a certain time. Pontius Pilate, governor of Judea, later sent Jesus Christ to him, Whom he mocked (Luke 23:7-12).

The judgment of God came upon Herod, Herodias and Salome, even during their earthly life. Salome, crossing the River Sikoris in winter, fell through the ice. The ice gave way in such a way that her body was in the water, but her head was trapped above the ice. It was similar to how she once had danced with her feet upon the ground, but now she flailed helplessly in the icy water. Thus she was trapped until that time when the sharp ice cut through her neck.

Her corpse was not found, but they brought the head to Herod and Herodias, as once they had brought them the head of Saint John the Baptist. The Arab king Aretas, in revenge for the disrespect shown his daughter, made war against Herod. The defeated Herod suffered the wrath of the Roman emperor Caius Caligua (37-41) and was exiled with Herodias first to Gaul, and then to Spain.

The Beheading of Saint John the Baptist, a Feast day established by the Church, is also a strict fast day because of the grief of Christians at the violent death of the saint. In some Orthodox cultures pious people will not eat food from a flat plate, use a knife, or eat food that is round in shape on this day. 

With Love in XC,

Fr. Anthony

Please remember the Giving Grid and participate! Please pay attention to the continued/altered Liturgical Schedule as influenced by the realities of an on-going pandemic and health crisis. Please be patient, prayerful and understanding.

Pastoral Letters

Pastoral Reflection August 16, 2020

When was such a wonder of wonders ever seen by men? How does the Queen of all lie breathless? How has the Mother of Jesus reposed? Thou, O Virgin, wast the preaching of the prophets; thou art heralded by us. All the people venerate thee; the angels glorify thee. Rejoice, thou who art full of grace, the Lord is with thee, and through thee, with us. With Gabriel we hymn thee, with the angels we glorify thee; and with the prophets we praise thee, for they announced thee.

Habakkum beheld thee as an overshadowed mountain, for thou art covered with the gifts of the Holy Spirit. Daniel beheld thee as a mountain from whom, seedlessly, the solid and strong King, the Christ, issued forth. Jacob saw thee as a ladder upon Whom Christ came down to eat and drink with us. And although we, His slaves, contemplate ascending into the heavens, yet thou hast ascended before all. Rejoice, O Virgin, for Gideon beheld thee as a fleece. David saw thee as the virgin daughter of the King. Isaias called thee Mother of God and Ezekiel a gate. All the prophets prophesied thee!

What shall we call thee, O Virgin? Paradise. It is meet, for thou hast blossomed forth the flower of incorruption, Christ, Who is the sweet-smelling fragrance for the souls of men. Virgin? Verily, a virgin thou art, for without the seed of man thou gavest birth to our Lord Jesus Christ. Thou wast a virgin before birth and virgin at birth and still a virgin after. Shall we call thee Mother? This is meet too; for as a Mother thou gavest birth to Christ the King of all. Shall we name thee Heaven? This thou art also for upon thee rose the Sun of righteousness. Wherefore, rejoice O Virgin, and hasten to thy Son’s rest and dwell in the tents of His beloved. Hasten there and make ready a palace and remember us and all thy people also, too. O Lady Mother of God, for both we and thyself are of the race of Adam.

On account of this, intercede on our behalf; for this supplicate thy Son Whom thou hast held in thine embrace, and help us in our preaching and then afterwards that we may find rest in our hopes. Go forward, O Virgin from earth to heaven, from corruption to incorruption, from the sorrow of this world to the joy of the Kingdom of the heavens, from this perishable earth to the everlasting Heaven. Hasten, O Virgin to the heavenly light, to the hymns of the angels, to the glory of the saints from all the ages.

Hasten, O Virgin, to the place of thy Son, to His Kingdom, to His power, where the angels chant, the prophets glorify and the Archangels hymn the Mother of the King, who is the lit lampstand, wider than the heavens, the firmament above, the protection of Christians, and the mediatress of our race.

St. Hierotheos

May You Enjoy a Blessed Feast of the Dormition of the Theotokos and Ever-Virgin Mary

Pastoral Letters

Pastoral Letter August 9, 2020

Dear Brothers and Sisters in Christ,

A week from today, we as the faithful of Christ will gather together and commemorate the falling asleep of the Theotokos and Ever-Virgin Mary, the mother of Jesus Christ and the daughter of our Matron St. Anna. As she passed from this life to the next, her ministry of prayer, support, intercession, grace, long-suffering and influence upon her Son continues into eternity. May we never cease to ask for her prayers. May we always recognize her influence in our lives. May we we be ever mindful of her love for humankind. 

The Feast of the Dormition of Our Most Holy Lady, the Theotokos and Ever-Virgin Mary is celebrated on August 15 each year. The Feast commemorates the repose (dormition and in the Greek kimisis) or “falling-asleep” of the Mother of Jesus Christ, our Lord. The Feast also commemorates the translation or assumption into heaven of the body of the Theotokos.

The Holy Scriptures tell us that when our Lord was dying on the Cross, He saw His mother and His disciple John and said to the Virgin Mary, “Woman, behold your son!” and to John, “Behold your mother!” (John 19:25-27). From that hour, the Apostle took care of the Theotokos in his own home.

Along with the biblical reference in Acts 1:14 that confirms that the Virgin Mary was with the Holy Apostles on the day of Pentecost, the tradition of the Church holds that she remained in the home of the Apostle John in Jerusalem, continuing a ministry in word and deed.

At the time of her death, the disciples of our Lord who were preaching throughout the world returned to Jerusalem to see the Theotokos. Except for the Apostle Thomas, all of them including the Apostle Paul were gathered together at her bedside. At the moment of her death, Jesus Christ himself descended and carried her soul into heaven.

Following her repose, the body of the Theotokos was taken in procession and laid in a tomb near the Garden of Gethsemane. When the Apostle Thomas arrived three days after her repose and desired to see her body, the tomb was found to be empty. The bodily assumption of the Theotokos was confirmed by the message of an angel and by her appearance to the Apostles.

The Icon of the Feast of the Dormition of the Theotokos shows her on her deathbed surrounded by the Apostles. Christ is standing in the center (1.) looking at His mother. He is holding a small child clothed in white representing the soul of the Virgin Mary. With His golden garments, the angels above His head, and the mandorla (halo) surrounding Him, Christ is depicted in His divine glory.

This great Feast of the Church and the icon celebrates a fundamental teaching of our faith—the Resurrection of the body. In the case of the Theotokos, this has been accomplished by the divine will of God. Thus, this Feast is a feast of hope, hope in Resurrection and life eternal. Like those who gathered around the body of the Virgin Mary, we gather around our departed loved ones and commend their souls into the hands of Christ. As we remember those who have reposed in the faith before us and have passed on into the communion of the Saints, we prepare ourselves to one day be received into the new life of the age to come.

We also affirm through this Feast as we journey toward our heavenly abode that the Mother of God intercedes for us. Through Christ she has become the mother of all of the children of God, embracing us with divine love.

The commemoration of the Dormition of the Theotokos and the preparation for the Feast begin on August 1 with a period of fasting. A strict fast is followed on most of the days (no meat, dairy, oil, or wine), with the exceptions of fish on the Feast of the Transfiguration (August 6) and the day of the Dormition. Oil and Wine are allowed on Saturdays and Sundays.

On the weekdays before the Feast, Paraklesis services are held in most parishes. We at St. Anna have recently been accustomed to celebrating this service weekly as a prayerful response tp the pandemic. 

The Feast of the Dormition is celebrated with the Divine Liturgy of Saint John Chrysostom which is conducted on the morning of the Feast and preceded by a Matins (Orthros) service. Scripture readings for the Feast of the Dormition are the following: At the Matins: Luke 1:39-49, 56. At the Divine Liturgy: Philippians 2:5-11; Luke 10:38-42; 11:27-28.

May this last week of preparation for her feast be blessed and I look forward to seeing you in church next Saturday as we celebrate the Dormition or Falling Asleep of the Theotokos.

With Much Love in Christ,

Fr. Anthony

Thank you to the Greek Orthodox Archdiocese of America for the information contained in this writing. 

Pastoral Letters

Pastoral Letter June 21, 2020

Good Afternoon, Dear Brothers and Sisters in Christ.

I pray you are well, and that your spirits are full of the calm and peace of Jesus Christ. I look forward to the next opportunity to be with you, praying together in the church building that we worked so hard to acquire to the glory of God. Though I am still awaiting the results of my coronavirus test, I am confident in a negative result and fully expect to resume active ministry on June 25th. Please continue to pray for the welfare and good health of all who have suffered under the presence of this biological menace. 

This Sunday is Father’s Day and I am pleased to share that the church will be open for live worship! The Orthros will begin at 9:00 am followed by the Divine Liturgy at 10:00 am. Due to my continued quarantine, there will be no weekday services until after my first Sunday back in church. I am sorry for that great inconvenience. But we must all pray for the time when this is behind us.

Having been touched by the realities of coronavirus, institutionally and personally, I have gained a great sense of humility and helplessness against a force that is much greater than all of out control. We can take precautions, follow guidelines, create procedures and live life through vigilance. We can’t stop the spread. But we need to do all we can to mitigate it.

Therefore, through the direction of our parish council, and with my full, enthusiastic support, we have upgraded out mask policy at the church:Beginning with Sunday’s services, the wearing of a face mask is required to enter the building.

We are not the first Greek Orthodox Church to make face coverings necessary, and I’m sure we will not be the last. But more and more organizations are tightening this restriction rather than loosening. it. Though I shouldn’t need to say this, I feel compelled to anyway: this is not a political statement.

This has nothing to do with party affiliations, political philosophies, Constitutional interpretations or anything other than our desire to create the safest environment possible, so people are free to worship at ease, and with confidence that we take the spread of coronavirus seriously. 
Two weeks ago, we opened the church, and right off the bat we had a positive case of the virus at church. Had we not responsibly acted on safety measures, and had there not been a 100% compliance with our face mask request, perhaps our benign outcome would have been disastrously altered.  It makes full sense to look out for each other, respect our mutual desire for wellness and dawn a mask for a couple hours.

Our community was established through positive energy, selfless sacrifice, a familial sense of community, the prayers of St. Anna, our protector and, and through the creative hand of our Lord Jesus Christ. Let us continue on this same path, walking together (six feet apart, of course) and moving collectively to the light at the end of this pandemic tunnel.

To all of our dads, grandfathers and godfathers, I pray fervently for you and the families who will honor you. I welcome Fr. Nicholas Andruchow as our celebrant on Sunday, June 21st, and thank him for not allowing us to suffer another Sunday without a St. Anna Divine Liturgy. I, like many of you, will be worshiping at St. Anna’s through my computer. I find that a blessing, in that it will give me a more intimate exposure to your own  liturgical experience, and will undoubtedly help me improve our live streaming process.

God Bless and Be Well!

With Much Love in XC,

Fr. Anthony Savas 

Pastoral Letters

Pastoral Letter May 31, 2020

Dear Brothers and Sisters in Christ,

It’s been said that The Nativity of Christ is God with us. The Wood of the Cross is God for us. The Feast of Pentecost is God within us.

Indeed, these are simple, theological statements, but they are also very true. The events in Bethlehem prove that the Incarnate God had chosen to live with, and minister to humankind. The events of the Crucifixion are witness to God’s unyielding love for his fallen creation. And though Pentecost does not take place until next Sunday, I am reminding you now, that this great Feast is nothing short of God taking up permanent residence in the bodies and souls of the Christian Faithful. As the Holy Spirit dwells within us, we become consecrated vessels, living temples and hallowed beings.

 We have one more week before this wondrous miracle is made manifest and becomes a new reality in the continuous cycle of our liturgical life. Please use this week in prayer and preparation. To be sure, we have much to prepare for, and pray about.

Sunday, June 7th, the Day of Pentecost is the first day in two months that you are welcome to return to church and worship with your fellow St. Anna Parishioners. Are you ready? Are you prepared? If you are, that is fantastic and I can’t wait to see you. If you still feel uneasy about venturing out, please be reminded that there is no judgment against anyone moving at a slower pace. St. Anna’s will be there, waiting for you when you prayerfully decide to put away your dress sweats and fancy bathrobes, and actually come to a service!

I’m sending these reminders a week early so you can mark your calendars and get your self prepared. We have everything arranged for your return. While the sanctuary will look very different from the last time you were present, with chairs removed, directional decals on the floor and signs posted inside and out, the familiarity of the home you acquired will cover you like a warm blanket.

We have space for approximately 86 people, since we have expanded the sanctuary to include the over-flow space behind the barn doors. I have not devised a system to have you sign up because based on my conversations with you, there are quite a few families who are waiting a bit longer to return. Never the less, I am praying that I’ll see 86 of you next Sunday.

When you come, please be courteous to your fellow Christians and wear a face mask. Are we requiring the use of a mask? No. Are we strongly encouraging you to do the right, thing, use common sense and do your part to slow the spread of coronavirus, and anything else that may come from an errant sneeze or cough? Yes. Yes, we are.

The following Tuesday, June 9th will be our first service celebrated for parishioners who are at least 65. Liturgy only – at 9:00 am. Please enjoy the extra measure of safety that has been prepared for you.

And as another reminder, starting next week (NOT this week) the Paraklesis Service is being moved to Thursday evenings and you are also welcome and encouraged to come to the church for that service. 
Starting the second week of June, I am going to start a Bible Study on Wednesday Evenings at 7:00 via Zoom. Please email me if you are interested in participating and I will send you the link. We will study points of Scripture that speak to calamity  and distress. These times have been challenging and difficult. The Bible has much to say to comfort, guide and ground us. I’ve enjoyed my preparations for this Bible Study. It has given me much comfort already.

I hope to see more of you tomorrow, with your families to receive Holy Communion tomorrow after the celebration of the Divine Liturgy. 
If you have any questions, concerns or comments, please feel free to contact me. I look forward to hearing from you and seeing you as soon as possible,

With Much Love in Christ,

Fr. Anthony